JACKSON, Tenn. (AP) — A spokesman for the state Department of Health says five cases of measles have been reported in Tennessee this year.
Woody McMillin told The Jackson Sun (http://bit.ly/1sNd5dr) that residents living in Madison, Gibson, Hardeman, Hamilton and Shelby counties have been diagnosed with the highly contagious disease.
A statement from the department says it is the first time measles has been reported in Tennessee in three years.
The disease has been considered eliminated in the United States since 2000 other than occasional outbreaks due to people traveling overseas, and then spreading it among those who aren't vaccinated.
For most of the last decade, the nation was seeing only about 60 cases a year. But since 2010, the average has been nearly 160.
McMillin said the Tennessee cases appear to stem from one person who traveled overseas. That person had close contact with the other four people. Health officials are now reviewing all close contacts for all five people infected.
Vaccines to prevent measles are readily available.
"When people should be vaccinated depends on age, medical conditions, travel plans and other factors," said State Epidemiologist Tim Jones. "While many recent cases are linked to travel to other countries where measles immunizations programs are not on par with the United States, almost anyone of any age, at any place, can be exposed to the measles virus. While you may not go out of the country, you may come in contact with people who do. Being properly vaccinated is critical in preventing measles. Talk with your health care provider about what is best for you and your family."